Barking startled Hannah. She jerked to a sitting position. The remote hit the hardwood, and two AA batteries popped out and rolled under the sofa. AnnaBelle raced into the room, thrust her nose in Hannah’s face, and returned to the door. On the turn, her paws sent a throw rug sliding into the wall.
“What now?” Hannah blinked. The morning sun poured through the windows, nuclear-bright. “A squirrel on the porch?”
The ringing of the doorbell was punctuated by the dog going bonkers again.
This was domestic bliss? But even with the craziness, the thought of an impersonal room in a five-star London hotel, complete with a feather bed, blackout shades, and room service, held no appeal.
Hannah stood and stretched, her back aching. She must have dozed off after the deer incident. She went to the door and peered through the peephole. Brody stood on the porch. As if he knew she was looking, he raised a white box in his hands. Hannah’s gaze darted from the pink-and-orange logo to his face. Lean and weathered, he wasn’t classically handsome or polished like Royce, but if she was keeping score, Brody took all of the points for masculinity. Royce used far too many personal grooming products to be a manly man. But then, she’d been raised with military men. Bug-out packs had room for spare ammunition and MREs, not wrinkle cream or hair gel.
Brody grinned, and the tanned skin around his eyes crinkled. Her heart did a quick shimmy. She ran her tongue over her teeth. No time to run upstairs to freshen up. Wait. She did not preen for men. But she wanted to. She pressed a palm to her forehead.
Scarlet Falls was a whirlpool, and Hannah was circling the drain. She needed to get the hell out of town before she was sucked under. Every moment she spent here, her job held less and less attraction. Maybe she was caught in a Doctor Who episode about parallel dimensions.
Resigned, she retreated to the kitchen to turn off the alarm, then opened the door. “Dunkin’ Donuts? That’s cheating.”
“Boston Kreme.” His smile faded as he scanned her face. “You look terrible.”
His gaze raked her from her slept-in jeans and sweater to her likely bed head. “Did I wake you?”
“No. Yes. It doesn’t matter.” Hannah pressed her fingertips to one closed eye. “What brings you here, Brody?”
His eyes flickered to his brown loafers. “I was passing by.”
Hannah snorted. “This house isn’t on the way to anywhere.”
Brody lifted a palm, feigning innocence. The sincerity in his warm brown eyes could almost convince her.
“I’m sorry. I’m a bitch before I’ve had my coffee. You’re welcome to come in if you like.”
“Thanks, I’d love to come in for a cup of coffee and a donut.” He stepped over the threshold, forcing Hannah backward.
With a sigh, she turned around and headed for the kitchen. “All right, but be warned. I need a shower, some sugar, and a vat of caffeine before I can hold a conversation without snapping off a head.”
“Fair enough.” He followed her back to the kitchen. She fed the dog and started a pot of coffee. Surveying the room, he set the bakery box on the counter. His sharp eyes paused on the gun and holster on the coffee table in the adjoining family room. Putting the gun away would have been a good idea. AnnaBelle scarfed her food and padded to the back door. Hannah snatched the leash from its hook.
“Grant and Ellie just let her outside by herself,” Brody said.
Hannah stomped into a pair of her brother’s boots standing by the back door. “I am not taking a chance of losing Carson’s dog while the kid’s in Disney World. I have one job while I’m here, and that kid has already lost too much. Yesterday I couldn’t get her to come in, and last night she went nuts over a deer in the yard. I don’t need her running off after the wildlife.” She contemplated a row of jackets hanging on wall hooks. “Is it cold out?”
“Yes.” Brody got up and walked over to her. He smelled like cedar and spices. His navy-blue sport coat and gray slacks looked good on his rangy body. The jacket bulged around the weapon in his shoulder holster. Her tongue found her teeth again. Not cool. Neither was the way his quiet masculinity affected her.
Smiling, he took the leash from her hand and gently shouldered her away from the door. “Go get your shower. I’ll walk the dog.”
“Thank you.” Hannah kicked off her brother’s boots and took her coffee upstairs. Her short hair stood straight up on the top of her head like a rooster’s comb. Ugh. After a two-minute shower, she brushed her teeth and gave her short locks a quick finger comb. Not that any of this mattered. Brody had already seen the real her. But at least now she didn’t look—or smell—like she’d been on a three-day wilderness survival trek.
Back downstairs, she settled at the island and concentrated on caffeine consumption. The door opened, and a wave of cold air swept into the kitchen with Brody and the dog. Hannah double-handed and drained her mug.
Brody shed his jacket and took the stool next to her. He peered into her cup. “Is it safe to talk now?”
“Almost.” Hannah suppressed a grin and refilled her mug. She lifted the pot in his direction. “Coffee?”
“Cream or sugar?”
He shook his head, settled back, and waited for her to sit down. Then he opened the box of donuts and nudged it toward her. His eyes were full of questions, but she couldn’t be bribed. He was behaving for now, but she knew from past experience, the cop had a subtle way of nosing for information. He was a natural at getting people to talk without thinking. He’d make a clever lawyer. But as a cop, he probably didn’t like attorneys.
She’d thought he didn’t like her. But it seemed she’d been wrong.
Hannah bit into a donut. The explosion of vanilla cream and chocolate icing set off a major foodgasm. Maybe she could be bribed.
“You look troubled this morning.” He studied her face. “You worried about the upcoming trial or the e-mail?”
“Both.” She licked a bit of chocolate icing from her lips and caught him watching. “There’s nothing I can do about the change-of-venue request, but the thought of Carson having to testify breaks my heart, and the assault case against Grant worries me.”
“The assault case doesn’t have much heft,” Brody said. “But you should talk to the prosecutor.”
Hannah smiled. “It’s so hard to get a straight answer out of a lawyer.”
Brody laughed. “It certainly can be.”
Grant had beaten the hell out of the man who’d killed their brother. Over the past eight months, Hannah had used her lawyerly powers to keep the charge against her brother at bay.
“The circumstances were extraordinary. Regardless of the letter of the law, your brother is a soldier with post-traumatic stress. Considering his exemplary military service, I have trouble believing any jury would hold his actions against him. The scumbag he beat up murdered his brother and sister-in-law and tried to kill the rest of his family. Grant was protecting them, and he lost control. If the assault wasn’t tied to a high-profile murder case, it wouldn’t be an issue.”
The criminal defense attorney she’d consulted agreed, but she’d put him on retainer in the event the case against Grant went to trial.
Hannah nodded. “Opposing counsel is simply doing his job. He’s pulling every thread he can find in hopes that he can unravel the case. That’s how the system is supposed to work.” Even though, at the moment, she hated every legal right given to Lee and Kate’s killer.
“Isn’t that what you would do if it was your case?” Disapproval hardened his eyes.
“I don’t think I could be a defense attorney, not after Lee’s murder,” she said.
“I guess not. But none of this tells me why you’re sleeping with your gun handy.” And there it was. Patient as always, he’d cleverly circled around to the question he’d undoubtedly wanted to ask since he’d seen her weapon on the table.
Hannah bristled. The cop hadn’t liked her handgun back in March. Obviously his opinion hadn’t changed since then. “I have a permit, and if I’d had my gun in Vegas, the situation would have had an entirely different outcome.”
“I wasn’t commenting on the legality of your weapon.” Brody’s gaze bore into hers. “I want to know why you think you need it in Scarlet Falls.”
Hannah flushed and blinked away. “The dog wouldn’t stop barking last night. Turned out to be a deer in the yard.”
Brody’s head tilted, as if her statement didn’t compute. “It’s not like you to be easily spooked.”
“I wasn’t spooked. I was being careful. There’s a difference.”
“So the dog barked, and you armed yourself and went out to investigate?” His voice rose.
Irritation warmed her. “What are you talking about? Why on earth would I go outside if I thought there was a possible threat out there? I would never leave a secure location to chase an unknown danger in the dark. That would be stupid. Do you think I’m an idiot?”
“Um. No.” He leaned back, confusion creasing his features. “I’m sorry. I misunderstood.”
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